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A Local Teacher Transforms Her Breast Cancer Journey into an Inspirational Story

Ms. West shares her inspiring story through breast cancer and gives insights on what the journey was like.
Ms. West at West Lauderdale High school

Michelle West shares her motivating story of when she had to confront a battle she never expected to fight: cancer. With her unshaken faith and loving community to support her as she faced many challenges, she is in a remarkable recovery.


According to the American Cancer Society, one in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, so it is crucial to understand what it can do to them and how difficult the journey is. Ms. West was a teacher for twenty-one years: eighteen at Meridian High School and four years at West. She teaches Chemistry, AP Chemistry, Physical Science, and Physics. Ms. West was diagnosed in late November of 2021 with breast cancer. 


Cancer created many struggles for Ms. West. Some of the physical conditions were that she did not initially heal well; she was extremely worn out and constantly fatigued. During her chemo treatment, she nicknamed her chemo the ‘red devil’ because of how aggressive it was, and during these treatments, she did not eat. 


During her second round of chemo, she experienced harsher side effects. Since chemo does not target cancer cells specifically, it attacked all of her cells. During the second round, it attacked her bone marrow, and she noted that this was extremely painful. 


However, it was not just the physical side effects of the treatment that challenged Ms. West. Being away from everyone was a significant social struggle as well. The Covid-19 pandemic made it harder as it limited contact even more. 


Despite these challenges, when Ms. West received her diagnosis, her initial response was, “Okay, God, here we go.” 


She stated that her faith and relationship with God helped her and that through him, she had the strength to take on this battle. Another support that helped her through this was the positive reaction of her community.

“The love and outpouring of support was amazing,” Ms. West stated.


While the physical and social challenges of her journey were daunting, Ms. West believes that it is important for people to understand the less-known struggle of cancer. 


Most people assume that once chemo is over and the patient is labeled cancer-free, everything is back to normal. However, that is not the case. 


“The journey isn’t over when treatments are done.”


One of the lingering effects of her treatment is a condition often referred to as “chemo brain.”


Chemo brain is when chemo kills the brain cells, synapses are lost, and mental connections are broken. It can create brain fog where knowledge in the brain may be there but is hard to find and verbally present.   


Ms. West was reported cancer-free in January 2022, but during the recovery process, she reported that “Chemo brain is rough.”


While her treatment may be over, there are still a multitude of struggles she faces in the recovery phase. 


Sixteen months out, Ms. West reported still feeling the effects, and she wants people to know that the love and support given to cancer survivors during treatment is still needed in the recovery process, during which the survivor is still healing and trying to prevent the cancer from returning. 


Ms. West, despite the ongoing challenges, has and is going through a journey that has given her a unique perspective on life, resilience, and the power of community support. She has a message for others facing the same or similar battle: “Lean into it…and watch God work.”


Ms. West has shown the strength and resilience that lies within us all and reminds us that in the face of adversity, there is always hope.


Photo by Angiola Harry
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Alexis Richardson
Alexis Richardson, Ads/General News
Hi, I’m Alexis and I am a junior, I am apart of the WLHS squire, band, percussion ensemble, winter guard, student council, NHS, and archery team. If you need any information from me my work email is listed below!
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